Georgia star forward Yante Maten seemed to be sleepwalking through the Bulldogs’ first game in the Wooden Legacy and coach Mark Fox hopes he’s not in a slumber for Friday’s semifinal matchup against San Diego State. Maten woke up in time to score 13 of his 15 points in the final 6 1/2 minutes as Georgia rallied for a 64-57 victory over host Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.
Maten, who averages 19.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, took over down the stretch against the Titans as Georgia won its fourth consecutive contest. “Late in the game, that’s what a senior All-America candidate should do,” Fox said afterward in regard to Maten’s second-half performance. “You should carry your team.” The Bulldogs figure to be severely tested by a San Diego State squad that steamrolled Sacramento State 89-52 in its first-round contest. The Aztecs led by as many as 47 points, forced 22 turnovers and outrebounded the Hornets 50-26 in the easy victory.
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ABOUT GEORGIA (4-0): While Maten was struggling to get into the flow, junior guard William Jackson II picked up the slack and scored a career-best 16 points against the Titans. Jackson, nicknamed “Turtle,” kept the Bulldogs afloat as they trailed for the first 30-plus minutes of the contest before outplaying Cal State Fullerton the rest of the way. “Good teams find a way to win, and ultimately we settled down and found our groove in the second half,” Fox said. “It’s not pretty, but it is a win. They’ll get better.”
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (4-1): The Aztecs are transitioning under first-year coach Brian Dutcher - the longtime assistant under retired Steve Fisher - and their four victories have been by an average of 34.5 points. Senior forward Malik Pope has team-best averages of 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while senior shooting guard Trey Kell (12.6 average) is a stellar 9-of-16 from 3-point range. Senior center Kameron Rooks, a transfer from California and the son of former NBA player Sean Rooks, collected a season-best nine rebounds against Sacramento State.
1. Georgia and San Diego State are meeting for the first time.
2. Aztecs junior F Max Montana (hyperextended knee) is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game.
3. Maten moved into the top 20 on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list with 1,327 points.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 83, Georgia 77